Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.
Verse 1-ch. 7:20. - Part III. In this address, which is later than the preceding parts, the prophet sets forth the way of salvation: PUNISHMENT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF SIN; REPENTANCE IS THE ONLY GROUND FOR HOPE OF PARTICIPATING IN THE COVENANT MERCIES. Verses 1-5. - 1. God's controversy with his people for their ingratitude. Verse 1. - Hear ye now. The whole nation is addressed and bidden to give heed to God's pleading. Arise, contend thou. These are God's words to Micah, bidding him put himself in his people's place, and plead as advocate before the great inanimate tribunal. Before the mountains; i.e. in the presence of the everlasting hills, which have as it were witnessed God's gracious dealings with his people from old time and Israel's long ingratitude (comp. Micah 1:2).
Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD'S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.
Verse 2. - Hear ye, O mountains. Insensate nature is called upon as a witness. (For similar appeals, comp. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 22:29.) The Lord's controversy. So God calls his pleading with his people to show them their sin and thankless unbelief; as he says in Isaiah 1:18, "Come, and let us reason together" (comp. Hosea 4:1; Hosea 12:2). Ye strong (enduring) foundations of the earth. The mountains are called everlasting (Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:15), as being firm, unchangeable, and as compared with man's life and doings, which are but transitory. The LXX. offers an interpretation as well as a translation, Αἱ φάραγγες θεμέλια τῆς γῆς, "Ye valleys, the foundations of the earth." With his people. It is because Israel is God's people that her sin is so heinous, and that God condescends to plead with her. He would thus touch her conscience by recalling his benefits. So in the following verses.
O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.
Verse 3. - O my people. The controversy takes the form of a loving expostulation; and thus in his wonderful condescension Jehovah opens the suit. What have I done unto thee? What has occasioned thy fall from me? Hast thou aught to accuse me of, that thou art wearied of me? Have my requirements been too hard, or have I not kept my promises to thee (comp. Isaiah 43:23, etc.; Jeremiah 2:5)? Testify. A judicial term; make a formal defence or reply to judicial interrogatories; depose (Numbers 35:30) (Pusey).
For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Verse 4. - God answers his own question by recounting some of his chief mercies to Israel. He has not burdened the people, but loaded them with benefits. I brought thee up, etc. The Exodus was the most wonderful instance of God's intervention and to it the prophets often refer (comp. Isaiah 63:11, etc.; Jeremiah 2:6; Amos 2:10). Out of the house of servants; of bondage , quoting the language of the Pentateuch, to show the greatness of the benefit (Exodus 13:3, 14; Deuteronomy 8:14, etc.). I sent before thee. As leaders of the Lord's flock (Psalm 77:20). Moses, the inspired leader, teacher, and lawgiver. Aaron, the priest, the director of Divine worship. Miriam, the prophetess, who led the praises of the people at their great deliverance (Exodus 15:20), and who probably was charged with some special mission to the women of Israel (see Numbers 12:1, 2).
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
Verse 5. - The Lord reminds the people of another great benefit subsequent to the Exodus, viz. the defeat of the designs of Balak, and the sorceries of Balaam. Consulted. United with the elders of Midian in a plot against thee (see Numbers 22. etc.). Answered him. There ought to be a stop here. The answer of Balaam was the blessing which he was constrained to give, instead of the curse which he was hired to pronounce (comp. Joshua 24:10). From Shittim unto Gilgal. This is a fresh consideration, referring to mercies under Joshua, and may be made plainer by inserting "remember" (which has, perhaps, dropped out of the text), as in the Revised Version. Shittim was the Israelites' last station before crossing the Jordan, and Gilgal the first in the land of Canaan; and so God bids them remember all that happened to them between those places - their sin in Shittim and the mercy then shown them (Numbers 25.), the miraculous passage of the Jordan, the renewal of the covenant at Gilgal (Joshua 5:9). Shittim; the acacia meadow (Abel-Shittim), hod. Ghor-es-Seisaban, was at the southeastern corner of the Ciccar, or Plain of Jordan, some seven miles from the Dead Sea. Gilgal (see note on Amos 4:4). That ye may know the righteousness (righteous acts) of the Lord. All these instances of God's interposition prove how faithful he is to his promises, how he cares for his elect, what are his gracious counsels towards them (see the same expression, Judges 5:11; 1 Samuel 12:7).
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Verses 6-8. - § 2. The people, awakened to its ingratitude and need of atonement, asks how to please God, and is referred for answer to the moral requirements of the Law. Verse 6. - It is greatly doubted who is the speaker here. Bishop Butler, in his sermon "Upon the Character of Balaam," adopts the view that Balak is the speaker of vers. 6 and 7, and Balaam answers in ver. 8. Knabenbauer considers Micah himself as the interlocutor, speaking in the character of the people; which makes the apparent change of persons in ver. 8 very awkward. Most commentators, ancient and modern, take the questions in vers. 6 and 7 to be asked by the people personified, though they are not agreed as to the spirit from which they proceed, some thinking that they are uttered in self-righteousness, as if the speakers had done all that and more than could be required of them; others regarding the inquiries as representing a certain acknowledgment of sin and a desire for means of propitiation, though there is exhibited a want of appreciation of the nature of God and of the service which alone is acceptable to him. The latter view is most reasonable, and in accordance with Micah's manner. Wherewith; i.e. with what offering? The prophet represents the congregation as asking him to tell them how to propitiate the offended Lord, and obtain his favour. Come before; go to meet, appear in the presence of the Lord. Septuagint, καταλάβω, "attain to." Bow myself before the high God; literally, God of the height, who has his throne on high (Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 57:15); Vulgate, curvabo genu Deo excelso; Septuagint, ἀντιλήψομαι Θεοῦ μου ὑψίστου, "shall I lay hold of my God most high." Calves of a year old. Such were deemed the choicest victims (comp. Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 9:2, 3).
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Verse 7. - Thousands of rams, as though the quantity enhanced the value, and tended to dispose the Lord to regard the offerer's thousandfold sinfulness with greater favour. Ten thousands of rivers (torrents, as in Job 20:17) of oil. Oil was used in the daily meal offering, and in that which accompanied every burnt offering (see Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 7:10-12; Numbers 15:4, etc.). The Vulgate has a different reading, In multis millibus hircorum pinguium; so the Septuagint, ἐν μυριάσι χιμάρων [ἀρνῶν, Alex.] πτόνων, "with ten thousands of fat goats," so also the Syriac. The alteration has been introduced probably with some idea of making the parallelism more exact. Shall I give my firstborn? Micah exactly represents the people's feeling; they would do anything but what God required; they would make the costliest sacrifice, even, m their exaggerated devotion, holding themselves ready to make a forbidden offering; but they would not attend to the moral requirements of the Law. It is probably by a mere hyperbole that the question in the text is asked. The practice of human sacrifice was founded on the notion that man ought to offer to God his dearest and costliest, and that the acceptability of an offering was proportioned to its preciousness. The Hebrews had learned the custom from their neighbours, e.g. the Phoenicians and Moabites (comp. 2 Kings 3:27), and had for centuries offered their children to Moloch, in defiance of the stern prohibitions of Moses and their prophets (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 16:3; Isaiah 57:5). They might have learned, from many facts and inferences, that man's self-surrender was not to be realized by this ritual; the sanctity of human life (Genesis 9:6), the substitution of the ram for Isaac (Genesis 22:13), the redemption of the firstborn (Exodus 13:13), all made for this truth. But the heathen idea retained its hold among them, so that the inquiry above is in strict keeping with the circumstances. The fruit of my body; i.e. the rest of my children (Deuteronomy 28:4).
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Verse 8. - The prophet answers in his own person the questions in vers. 6 and 7, by showing the worthlessness of outward observances when the moral precepts and not observed. He hath showed thee; literally, one has told thee, or, it has been told thee, i.e. by Moses and in the Law (Deuteronomy 10:12, etc.). Septuagint, Αἰ ἀνηγγέλη σοι,"Hath it not been told thee?" What doth the Lord require of thee? The prophets often enforce the truth that the principles of righteous conduct are required from men, and not mere formal worship. This might well be a comfort to the Israelites when they heard that they were doomed to be cast out of their country, and that the temple was to be destroyed, and that the ritual on which they laid such stress would for a time become impracticable. So the inculcation of moral virtues is often connected with the prediction of woe or captivity. (For the prophetic view of the paramount importance of righteousness, see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6, etc.: 1. 8, etc.; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6, etc.; see on Zechariah 7:7.) To do justly. To act equitably, to hurt nobody by word or deed, which was the exact contrary of the conduct previously mentioned (Micah 2:1, 2, 8; Micah 3:2, etc.). To love mercy. To be guided in conduct to others by loving kindness. These two rules contain the whole duty to the neighbour. Compare Christ's description of genuine religion (Matthew 23:23). To walk humbly with thy God. This precept comprises man's duty to God, humility and obedience. "To walk" is an expression implying "to live and act" as the patriarchs are said to have "walked with God," denoting that they lived as consciously under his eye and referred all their actions to him. Humility is greatly enforced in the Scriptures (see e.g. Isaiah 2:11, etc.). Septuagint, ἕτοιμον εϊναι τοῦ πορεύεσθαι μετὰ Κυρίου, "to be ready to walk with the Lord;" Vulgate, Solicitum ambulare cum Deo; Syriac, "Be prepared to follow thy God." But our version is doubtless correct.
The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.
Verses 9-12. - § 3. Because Israel was very far from acting in this spirit, God sternly rebukes her for prevailing sins. Verse 9. - The Lord's voice (Isaiah 30:31; Joel 2:11; Amos 1:2). These are no longer the words of the prophet, but those of God himself, and not spoken in secret, but unto the city, that all may hear the sentence who dwell in Jerusalem. The man of wisdom shall see thy Name; i.e. he who is wise regards thy Name and obeys time, does not simply hear, but profits by what he hears. The reading is uncertain. Others render, "Blessed is he who sees thy Name;" but the construction is against this. Others, "Thy Name looketh to wisdom" (or prosperity), has the true wisdom of life in sight. The versions read "fear" for "see." Thus the LXX., Σώσει φοβουμένους τὸ Ονομα αὐτοῦ, "Shall save those that fear his Name;" Vulgate, Salus erit timentibus Nomen tuum; Syriac, "He imparts instruction to those that fear his Name;" Chaldee, "The teachers fear his Name." This reading depends upon a change of vowel pointing. Orelli renders, "Happy is he who fears thy Name." The Authorized translation, which seems on the whole to be well established, takes the abstract noun "wisdom" as equivalent to "the wise," or "the man of wisdom." For similar expressions, Henderson refers to Psalm 109-4; Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 19:15. The prophet parenthetically announces that, however the bulk of the people might receive the message, the truly wise would listen and profit by it. Hear ye the rod. Observe the rod of God's anger, the threatened judgments (so Isaiah 9:4 [3, Hebrew]; 10:5, 24). The power of Assyria is meant, The LXX. renders differently,] Ακουε φυλή, "Hear, O tribe;" so the Vulgate, Audite, tribus. And who hath appointed it. Mark who it is who hath ordained this chastisement. It is from the Lord's hand. Septuagint, Τίς κοσμήσει πόλιν; "Who will adorn the city?" with some reference, perhaps, to Jeremiah 31:4, "Again shalt thou be adorned with thy tabrets;" Vulgate, Et quis approbabit illud? This implies that few indeed will profit by the warning.
Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?
Verse 10. - The reproof is given in the form of questions, in order to rouse the sleeping conscience of the people. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked? Do the wicked still continue to bring into their houses treasures obtained by wrong? The old versions compare this ill-gotten wealth to a fire which shall consume the homes of its possessors. Septuagint, Μὴ πῦρ καὶ οϊκος ἀνόμου θησαυρίζω θησαυροὺς ἀνόμους; "Is there fire and the house of the wicked treasuring up wicked treasures?" Vulgate, Adhuc ignis in domo impii thesauri iniquitatis? So the Syriac; the Chaldee keeps to the Masoretic reading. The scant measure; literally, the ephah of leanness. The ephah was about three pecks. According to Josephus ('Ant.,' 15:09. 2), it contained one Attic medimnus, which would be nearly a bushel and a half. Fraudulent weights and measures are often denounced (Leviticus 19:35, etc.; Deuteronomy 25:14, etc.; Proverbs 20:10, 23; Amos 8:5). Vulgate, Mensura minor irae plena, where the Hebrew has, that is abominable. Such frauds are hateful to God, and are marked with his wrath.
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?
Verse 11. - Shall I count them pure? literally, Shall I be pure? The clause is obscure. The Authorized Version regards the speaker as the same as in ver. 10, and translates with some violence to the text. It may be that the prophet speaks as the representative of the awakened transgressor, "Can I be guiltless with such deceit about me?" But the sudden change of personification and of state of feeling is very harsh. Hence some follow Jerome in regarding God as the speaker, and rendering, "Shall I justify the wicked balance?" others, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee, Αἰ δικαιωθήσεται ἐν ζυγῷ ἄνομος; "Shall the wicked be justified by the balance?" Cheyne is inclined to read the verb in the second person, "Canst thou (O Jerusalem) be pure?" since in the next verse the prophet proceeds, "the rich men thereof" (i.e. of Jerusalem). If we retain the present reading, "Can I be innocent?" we must consider the question as put, for effect's sake, in the mouth of one of the rich oppressors. Jerome's translation is contrary to the use of the verb, which is always intransitive in kal.
For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
Verse 12. - The rich men thereof; i.e. of the city mentioned in ver. 9. They have just been charged with injustice and fraud, now they are denounced for practising every kind of violence. And not only the rich, but all the inhabitants fall under censure for lying and deceit. Their tongue is deceitful; literally, deceit; they cannot open their mouth without speaking dangerous and destructive lies.
Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.
Verses 13-16. - § 4. For all this God threatens punishment. Verse 13. - Will I make thee sick in smiting thee; literally, have made the smiting thee sick; i.e. incurable, as Nahum 3:19, or, "have made the blows mortal that are given thee." The perfect is used to express the certainty of the future. The Septuagint and Vulgate read, "I have begun [or, will begin] to smite thee."
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.
Verse 14. - Thou shalt eat, etc. The punishment answers to the sin (which proves that it comes from God), and recalls the threats of the Law (Leviticus 26:25, etc.; Deuteronomy 28:29, etc.; comp. Hosea 4:10; Haggai 1:6). Thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; i.e. thy humiliation, thy decay and downfall, shall occur in the very centre of thy wealth and strength, where thou hast laid up thy treasure and practised thy wickedness. But the meaning of the Hebrew is very uncertain, and the text may be corrupt. The LXX. had a different reading, συσκοτάσει εν σοι, "darkness shall be in thee." The Syriac and Chaldee interpret the word rendered "casting down" (ישח, which is found nowhere else) of some disease like dysentery. It is most suitable to understand this clause as connected with the preceding threat of hunger, and to take the unusual word in the sense of "emptiness." Thus, "Thy emptiness (of stomach) shall remain in thee." Jeremiah (Jeremiah 52:6)speaks of the famine in the city at the time of its siege. Thou shalt take hold; rather, thou shalt remove (thy goods). This is the second chastisement. They should try to take their goods and families out of the reach of the enemy, but should not be able to save them. The LXX. interprets the verb of escaping by flight. That which thou deliverest. If by chance anything is carried away, it shall fall into the hands of the enemy (comp. 2 Kings 25:4, 5; Jeremiah 52:7, 8).
Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.
Verse 15. - Here is another judgment in accordance with the threatenings of the Law (Deuteronomy 28:33, 38, etc.; comp. Amos 5:11; Zephaniah 1:13; Haggai 1:6). Shalt not reap. The effect may be owing to the judicial sterility of the soil, but more likely to the incursions of the enemy. Trochon quotes Virgil, ' Eel.,' 1:70 -
"Impius haec tam culta novalia miles habebit?
Barbarus has segetes? en, quo discordia cives
Produxit miseros! his nos consevimus agros!" Tread the olives. Olives were usually pressed or crushed in a mill, in order to extract the oil; the process of treading; was probably adopted by the poor. Gethsemane took its name from the oil presses there. The oil was applied to the person for comfort, luxury, and ceremony, and was almost indispensable in a hot country. Sweet wine. Thou shalt tread the new wine of the vintage, but shalt have to leave it for the enemy (comp. Amos 5:11). The Septuagint has here an interpolation, Καὶ ἀφανισθήσεται νόμιμα λαοῦ μου, "And the ordinances of my people shall vanish away," which has arisen partly from a confusion between Omri, the proper name in the next verse, and ammi, "my people."
For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.
Verse 16. - The threatening is closed by repeating its cause: the punishment is the just reward of ungodly conduct. The first part of the verse corresponds to vers. 10-12, the second part to vers. 13-15. The statutes of Omri. The statutes are the rules of worship prescribed by him of whom it is said (1 Kings 16:25) that he "wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him." No special "statutes" of his are anywhere mentioned; but he is named here as the founder of that evil dynasty which gave Ahab to Israel, and the murderess Athaliah (who is called in 2 Kings 8:26, "the daughter of Omri") to Judah. The people keep his statutes instead of the Lord's (Leviticus 20:22). The works of the house of Ahab are their crimes and sins, especially the idolatrous practices observed by that family, such as the worship of Baal, which became the national religion (1 Kings 16:31, etc.). Such apostasy had a disastrous effect upon the neighbouring kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 8:18). Walk in their counsels. Take your tone and policy from them. That I should make thee. "The punishment was as certainly connected with the sin, in the purpose of God, as if its infliction had been the end at which they aimed" (Henderson). The prophet here threatens a threefold penalty, as he had mentioned a threefold guiltiness. A desolation; ἀφανισμόν (Septuagint); perditionem (Vulgate). According to Keil, "an object of horror," as Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 25:9. Micah addresses Jerusalem itself in the first clause, its inhabitants in the second, and the whole nation in the last. An hissing; i.e. an object of derision, as Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:18, etc. Therefore (and) ye shall bear the reproach of my people. Ye shall have to hear yourselves reproached at the mouth of the heathen, in that, though ye were the Lord's peculiar people, ye were cast out and given into the hands of your enemies. The Septuagint, from a different reading, renders, Καὶ ὀνείδη λαῶν λήψεσθε, "Ye shall receive the reproaches of nations," which is like Ezekiel 34:29; Ezekiel 36:6, 15.